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Innovative East End Program To Bring Produce Straight From The Farm To Local Food Pantry

Nicole Barylski

Alison Delaney, Development Officer, Peconic Land Trust, Dave Okorn, Executive Director LICF, Suzanne Wolfson, AFTEE Grant Committee, Claudia Pilato, AFTEE Board President, Bonnie Cannon, Executive Director BHCCC, Layton Guenther, Director, Quail HIll Farm, Pam Greene, SVP Peconic Land Trust and Michael Daly, AFTEE Board Member. (Courtesy Photo)

As the East End faces unprecedented food insecurity brought on by the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, All For The East End (AFTEE) and the Long Island Community Foundation (LICF) have joined forces to bestow a $25,000 grant that will be utilized to underwrite an innovative pilot Farm to Food Pantry program. This will allow Amagansett's Quail Hill Farm, a stewardship project of the Peconic Land Trust, to provide nutritious, delicious, fresh produce directly to the Food Pantry at the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center (BCCRC) - at no cost.

"While often invisible to some East End residents and vacationers, hunger is an unfortunate reality for countless individuals in our community.  The pandemic has caused an exponential spike in the number of people that are in dire need of such a basic human necessity … food," stated David Okorn, Executive Director, Long Island Community Foundation. "The Long Island Community Foundation is proud to be partnering with AFTEE to address food insecurity in the five East End Towns.  This pilot program between Quail Hill Farm and Bridgehampton Childcare provides such a unique opportunity to assist nearly 500 people a week with nutritious fresh produce."

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center's Food Pantry provided services once a month. As the demand grew, BCCRC increased its operation to assist families in need twice a week. "We are so excited about this unique and ambitious community partnership. Before the pandemic, our food pantry was feeding approximately 70 individuals per month," Bonnie Michelle Cannon, Executive Director, BHCCRC, explained. "We are now feeding about 450 individuals per week. The need is great, and the heart of this community is rising to the occasion. This is such a blessing for our families. Thank you AFTEE, LICF, Peconic Land Trust and the amazing Quail Hill Farm."

The pilot program is part of AFTEE's Feed the Need Campaign, "a unified effort of business people, government leaders, concerned community members and others raising funds to address both the rapidly growing food insecurity of the region as well as other issues that may arise due to the pandemic."

Quail Hill Farm is one of the original Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the U.S. It was established in 1990, on land that Deborah Ann Light donated to the Peconic Land Trust. Throughout the years it has expanded to 35 acres, serving over 250 families.

"We are so grateful to AFTEE and LICF for their willingness to think outside the box and fund this unique and collaborative pilot program between the Trust, our Quail Hill Farm, and The Center," said Trust President John V.H. Halsey. "This has happened very quickly, and we are proud to be helping the people most in need within our community by providing them with fresh, local food. It is a win-win for everyone and serves as a model for other farms and organizations to work together during this unprecedented crisis."

Because of the Farm to Food Pantry program, BCCRC will be able to assist even more families by redirecting funds The Center would typically spend on fresh produce to purchasing additional shelf stable goods, meat and dairy, as well as personal household goods and toiletries. Upon being harvested, produce will be dropped off at The Center either the same day or the following day.

"I'm deeply honored to embark on this new project with Bonnie and the entire staff at The Center. We have examined our role as a community farm during this pandemic, a time that has broadened inequities for so many," Layton Guenther, Director, Quail Hill Farm, relayed. "By digging deeper into this mission, we saw an opportunity to broaden our distribution while committing to food justice and racial equity in our local food system. Furthermore, while most mixed-vegetable growers on the South Fork orient their production schedule around a narrow summertime marketing window, we are now able to extend that window considerably, while feeding local families."

After a member of Quail Hill Farm donated $5,000 to establish a way to provide fresh produce from the farm directly to those facing food insecurity, the Trust contacted The Center about a potential partnership. Once BCCRC was on board, the Trust and farm staff determined a budget that encompasses the costs of supplying fresh produce to The Center during an 18-week period for 350 to 450 people each week. The pilot Farm to Food Pantry program will cost approximately $55,000. AFTEE and LICF's grant will underwrite nine weeks of the program, taking care of the direct costs of planting, harvesting, packaging, and delivering the produce. The Trust will turn to fundraising for the remaining $25,000 balance.

"We are delighted to help this ambitious pilot program and we hope it serves as a model for other farms to participate in helping our pantries," reflected AFTEE Board President, Claudia Pilato. "In less than three months, AFTEE has raised close to $1-million dollars and we have given more than half of it to the East End pantries and other organizations that have stepped forward to help our community during the Pandemic. Our hope is that the Quail Hill Farm to pantry program will grow each year and it will be joined by other farms providing fresh local produce to those who do not have easy access to healthy food."

The Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center was established "out of tragedy in 1949 when a migrant camp fire killed two children of seasonal farm workers." The not-for-profit serves the East End community, with a focus on the lower income African-American and growing Latino community. Its mission is to "deliver the highest quality educational and recreational programs to local children, youth and their families."

For more information about Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center, visit www.bhccrc.org. For more information about Peconic Land Trust visit peconiclandtrust.org. For more information about All For The East End, visit www.aftee.org. For more information about Long Island Community Foundation, visit licf.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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